Kitchen Project: Tile Backsplash

We’ve been gradually, gradually working to update our kitchen, and I am excited to show you our latest project– a shiny new backsplash!

Here’s the tile that we started with.  I slapped it up a few years ago, and never got around to grouting it.  It was fine at the time, but after a few years I was ready to see it go.  The little racks on the wall are plate racks– they’re out of here too.

Before

When we went to rip off the tile, big chunks of the sheetrock wall came away as well, leaving quite the ugly mess. Some of it was patchable with mud, but in several places John had to cut out the ruined sheetrock and patch in new sheetrock.

Where the sheetrock got ugly

Here’s the wall with the sheetrock replaced.

patching holes

Then here it is with the mud on and smoothed out.

wallboard and mud

Once that was sanded smooth it was finally time to begin with tile.  Here’s the first section all laid out.  The tile comes in 12 inch by 12 inch sections, with individual tiles held together by a mesh backer.  That allowed us to cut out sections of tile where the outlets needed to go.

First course of tile

Here’s a closeup of tile around an outlet with new outlet covers in place. There’s no grout yet, and you may be able to see the tiny t-shaped spacers holding sections of tile apart where the sections of mesh backer came together. New outlet covers

Those little spacers turned out to be a dog to get out of all the cracks.  That’s what we were doing in this photo. I think we should have removed them the same day instead of waiting until the next day.

Picking away at the extra grout

The scariest part was the grouting process, because as you wipe off the grout, it smears all over the face of the tiles, making them muddy and ugly-looking.  Wiping the faces off with a damp sponge, per directions, helped clean them some.  But there was still a persistent film that we couldn’t fully remove until the next day when the rest of the grout was dry.

I was nervous about doing the silicone line at the bottom edge, but it turned out well enough that I went on to do new silicone around the kitchen sink AND around one of our bathroom sinks.  (The trick? Painter’s tape on both sides of your line so that it won’t spread further than you want it to.)

Before grout

Finally,  here are the ‘after’ pictures!  You should be able to click on the photos to enlarge them a bit.

Tile (14)

Installing a new tile backsplash

 

After

 

 

 Thoughts afterward:

I’m very glad that we chose one-inch tile for my first tile project.  I ended up only having to cut half a dozen tiles at the edge of one light switch, and almost all of them chipped or broke in half the wrong direction.  Thankfully the edge of the outlet cover hides them, and grouted they are plenty stable and should not cause any trouble.  You’ll only see them if you know exactly where to look, and it’s back in the corner behind the coffee pot, so it really is a non-issue. But looking back, a better way to handle the broken bits probably would have been to simply cut them off the mesh sheet and add in other individual tile that I actually was able to cut without breaking. Tile (9)

If we’d chosen large tile, I think the cutting would have been a lot harder and probably we’d have needed a wet saw. And given my lack of expertise, I’m glad this isn’t an area that gets buckets of water like a shower wall.  It was a low-stakes beginner project.

After!

If I had it to do again, I might pick a lighter or more neutral color of grout– not pure white because I think that would be terrible to keep clean.  The darknesst of what I chose, however, made the tile lose a little of its sparkle.  The color was called ‘nutmeg’ and ended up matching a little too closely, I think.  But overall I am happy with how it turned out.  And even though in the middle of grouting I said I would never, never again install tile, I confess to wondering where else I might be able to practice my tile-laying skills.  Maybe I could get even better at it.

Installing a new tile backsplash

 

Past Kitchen Projects

2013: My new kitchen floor

2014: stain and hardware to refresh the cabinets

2015: New ceiling lighting

 

How to make refillable k-cups work with the Keurig 2.0

Last week we decided to bite the bullet and replace our old Keurig that had gone toes up a few weeks earlier.  When trying out this new one, which is a model 2.0 that we got from Costco , John was disgusted to discover that the Refillable Single K-Cup Brewers  that we’ve been using with our old Keurig don’t work on this new version.

Make a reusable Keurig cup work with the Keurig 2.0

 

 

He called the company to find out where to get a new refill cup, but was told that the new Keurig was designed only to be used with the toss-away cups.  The worker explained that the machine is fitted with an electronic eye that reads the top of the K-cup.  So not only will it not ‘read’ the refill packs, it also won’t read some of the more affordable ‘off’ brands of throw-away cups.  John was aggravated at first, but then he had a great idea.

Keurig 2.0

He carefully removed the foil top from a K-cup that had already been used, and simply taped it to the top of one of our refill cups.  In these photos he used clear packing tape, but we found that duct tape, cut into thin strips to cover only tiny bits of the foil, is actually more durable.

Keurig 2.0 (2)

He then stuck the refillable cup into the coffee pot.  Voila!  The electronic eye had something to read, and it merrily chugged out a cup of coffee with nary a complaint.  I thought this was such a good idea that I decided to share it here, in case others of you have bought the Keurig 2.0 and were also frustrated by the same problem.

Note:  After writing this post, I googled the problem and came across this video telling how someone else solved this problem in a very similar way.  That way didn’t work for us– the foil crumples when you open and close the lid, but it might work for others, so I’m including the link just in case.

 

A simple project, gone complicated

So  on Friday I was meandering around Costco with no pressing deadlines and a dab of money in my pocket– always a dangerous scenario.  Near the light bulbs I spotted some sleek new trim-outs for the can lights in our kitchen (kinda like this.) I’d been considering updating ours for a couple years– we’ve had the same eye-ball style cans since 1993 when we moved into our house.  The last time I’d priced LED replacements, they were about $20, which times eight cans always felt like more than I wanted to spend. Except on Friday Costco had them for $10, with a $2 instant rebate to sweeten the deal.  Into my cart they went. John and the teenagers were at snow camp for the weekend.  But our electrician had reassured us a few months earlier that it was a very simple fix– just unscrew the existing light bulb, removed the old trim, screw a retrofit piece into the old bulb hole and mount the new trim.  I figured that I could easily have the project done in an hour, and imagined John’s happy surprise at the new look, the price, and the thought of the money we’d save on power with LED’s. I popped the first light in, no problem, and flipped the switch to test it.  Worked great and was so bright.  Neat!  Encouraged, I flipped the switch back off so as not to electrocute myself while I worked, and went on replacing all the others.  The eight lights are on three different switches– 6 in the main kitchen area, one over the sink and another in the hall.   Once I got them all installed, I flipped on the switch over the sink.  Lights!  The hall light worked great too.

Cans

Old versus new

But when I flipped the switch powering the 6 main lights, there was an ominous pop, no kitchen lights turned on, and all the living room lights went out too.  Darn.  We’d flipped a breaker. I turned off the switch, went out to the garage to reset the breaker, and came back to try the light again.  Pop again. Double darn.  What on earth could be wrong?  I figured there must be a short somewhere within the 6 lights, but since I didn’t know which it was, I ended up taking out every single one.  My plan was to add them back in one by one so that I could figure out where the issue was.  Problem was, no matter where I added one in, the breaker flipped. I put in a call to our electrician, hoping maybe he could help me trouble-shoot over the phone.  But since it was 7PM on a Friday night, I wasn’t at all sure I’d get a response.  To make things worse, a bit more tweaking ended up with an even bigger problem– the breaker stopped being able to be reset.  So now the only working light in the main area of the house was the one in the hall, which was on a separate breaker than the kitchen and living room.  And of course the living room circuit also controlled our internet and our TV. Darkness was descending. I could only imagine how glum my husband would be to come home Sunday to the sight of dangling wires were there used to be lights, and no power to the main rooms in the house.  I’ve attempted solo projects before without consulting my husband, with varying degrees  of  success and he’s not always thrilled to be finishing what I started.I was anxious to add another fail to the list. I left another message with our electrician, explaining the latest developments.  Five minutes later — thank heavens– he called back.   He walked me through a bit of trouble-shooting, switching various switched off and on, which (thankfully) ended up in getting the breaker re-set and working.  Now, as long as we kept the main kitchen light off, we had light in the living room.  Good enough for now. The  next day the electrician came to see what was causing all our trouble.  Turns out there was a bare wire in one of the cans  (probably ever since the house was built) that my tweaking had caused to touch the wall of the can and flip the breaker.  And that had caused one of the light switches to fry too.  $100 and an hour of work later, all our lights were working properly.  I guess it’s a good thing I got the lights on sale. Even better- the whole project was done before John got home.  Hooray!Cans (1)

Wednesday freebie

I have an odd but useful giveaway for you today.  When a representative of the Drain Wig  contacted me, explained her product and asked me if I wanted to give it a try, I was instantly interested. I currently have four girls with a LOT of hair all sharing one bathroom, and when you’ve got that many girls with that much hair sharing one shower, it can be hard on the drains.

Drain Wig_Product Shot

If you’ve every spent time fishing hair out of a bath tub drain– or paid a plumber your hard-earned bucks to do so, you might like to know about this thing too.  The gadget is called a Drain Wig, and when it is threaded into a drain pipe, it will catch any hair going down.  You leave it in the drain all the time — with the cute little plastic thing keeping it from being lost.  Then a few times a year you just pull out the drain wig, throw it away and replace it with a new one.

I just put one in the girls bathroom, so I can’t tell you how it works yet.  But I have one to give away to a reader, so you can try it yourself. To enter the giveaway, just go to the Drain Wig website, check it out, then comment below and tell me you did.  And if you interested in purchasing this gadget right away, I have a special promo code good for $5 off.  When you order, just enter the code FIZZ5 in the promo code box at check out.

I’ll pick a winner early next week!

Goodbye, old gold. You served us well.

Probably the most exciting thing that happened yesterday was the arrival of the new light fixture that I ordered at Joss and Main.  A friend who is a home stager  (is that a word?)– anyway, she does home staging to help houses sell—mentioned that she loves the site, and while checking it out, I spotted a really fun light fixture.  I immediately thought of the aging light hanging in our entry, and since the price was fairly reasonable, I snatched it up.

Here’s a photo of my fearless hubby taking ‘old gold’ down.  Why, yes, that is dust on his shirt due to my fabulous (lack of) interest in dusting.

Taking out the old fixture

 

Here’s a photo of the new fixture from about the same angle.  It proved to be ridiculously hard to find an un-busy background against which to get a photo.

Seen from the front door

Here’s the fixture in the dark.  I forgot to get a photo showing the very cool light that this throws on the ceiling due to all the criss-crossing lines, but it is really fun– and crazy-bright for only fitting tiny 60-watt bulbs.  The entry is a great place for a little more light, since we have a small desk there where teens often do homework in the evenings.

Love the chandelier bulbs- this fixture is very bright!

Then here’s a shot of the light from the stairs– such a nice difference.  It’s really fun to look at.

 

New fixture seen from the stairs

Now I’m looking at my dining room light cross-eyed– isn’t that how this type of thing always goes?  But  since I still like the shape of that fixture, and don’t have a budget to replace things around here willy nilly, I think what I’ll do is try spray-painting it in a color similar to the oil-rubbed bronze.  Then it will match my entry light tone-wise if not in style.

I’ll probably also paint my front door handle.  It is bright brass too– but getting worn looking– and a fresh coat of paint would really improve its looks.  Here’s a tutorial I saved with info on how to do it.

during this the last week before school starts again

I can’t think of one frugal thing that I did this week. I did do a lot of other things, however. So I guess I’ll just tell you about all those things instead. Sunday was our Zeytuna’s 17th birthday party and Wednesday John and I took her out to dinner and a movie, which is a tradition at our house. We saw The Maze Runner, which was kinda violent, but had (I thought) an intriguing story line. We enjoyed it.

Monday I took Emily and Julianna out to pick out paint and new bedspreads for their room.They’d been begging for new paint in their room for a good long time as there were lots of chips and they were itching to try out some new colors in the room. They had Christmas money to spend, which purchased the bedspreads– hooray!!– and I bought two colors of paint and a new shade for their window.  Here’s how it looked a few days ago, with Julianna buzzing with excitement and John busily installing the shade.

RoomPaint (3)

Here’s Emily washing baseboards and laying down blue tape at the edges.

RoomPaint

And here’s Julianna painting away.   She and Emily were both thrilled to help out with this project.

RoomPaint (1)

Tuesday was spent first moving beds, then cleaning up all the stuff we’d unearthed from under the beds, and then finally painting. Whew. What a job. It actually stretched partway into Wednesday, and I was very grateful that John painted the white trim for us, since I was sick of painting by then.  As you can see, it turned out really cute.  It’s a delight to peek into their room now!

 

RoomPaint (5)

They especially love their poster wall, installed strategically across from the beds so that they can both see them all.  Lots of fun!

RoomPaint (4)

On Wednesday, John got my new baby gate painted and mounted on hinges at the bottom of the stairs. We opted to distress the white paint, and then added a layer of poly for extra protection.  As you can see, it sits snug against the wall when it’s not needed.

Gate

 

And here it is, swung shut. I think it turned out really cute, and it’ll be nice to have a permanently mounted gate that we can easily shut when we don’t want the little kids climbing the stairs.

Gate (1)

On Thursday I went over to Amanda’s house, and helped her sort and organize baby clothes into bins by size. With baby #3 coming in April, she is working to make space and keep the house functioning well with another little one added into the mix. Very fun. On Thursday I also got some new shades from amazon to go in my bedroom. They are pleated shades that have no strings– so neat and easy. It was very nice to throw away my dusty beat up old ones and replace them with something crisp and new.

Then today I began the day by taking Emily and Julianna to the rec center to meet Amanda and Erika and all the grandbabies for a swim. They’re the only people in the world that I’d don a swimsuit in January for, that’s for sure.  We had lots of fun, and ended with lunch at Panda Express.

Monday starts school again, though I don’t think any of us are quite ready for Christmas break to be done.  How did your week go?  Feel free to comment below and tell me how your frugality efforts went — hopefully a lot better than mine!

Frugal holiday beauty

This weekend I have the fun of attending the Joy for the Journey adoptive mom retreat in Lancaster, PA. So instead of my usual frugality post, I thought I’d share some fun and frugal ways to decorate for the upcoming holidays.

thanksgiving-decor

 This silver and white decor could be lovely for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 

 

Christmas ball decor

Lots of pretty ideas for Christmas balls– A big box of glass Christmas balls is $10 at Target or Walmart.

 

Here are a couple of affordable and pretty ways to decorate pine cones.

Dip a pine cone in glue and dust with Epsom salts for snow-sparkled pine cones.sparkly pinecones

 

Or gather a bunch of pine cones with some red ribbon for a lovely alternative to a wreath.pinecone-cluster-collage

Did you know that you can slip ping pong balls over LED lights to make these lovely globe lights?

DIY_ping_pong_lights6

Then finally here’s a sweet craft you can make with some wood rounds and an etching tool.

Etched-Birch-Ornaments-7

 

Before you buy decor items at full price, be sure to look at your local thrift stores and craft stores. Often thrift stores seem to be the depository for half-done craft projects, which makes them a great place to look for ribbon, yarn, silk flowers, and many other craft and decor items such as knitting needles, beads, crochet hooks, baskets, tins, and wreaths.

If you have more ideas for affordable Thanksgiving and Christmas decor, I’d love to hear them!

 

Gifts kids can make for friends

Gifts Kids Can Make

If your kids are like mine, they enjoy giving their friends gifts at Christmas time.  The problem is, even a $5-$10 gift, multiplied by 3 or 4 or 6 friends, times whatever number of kids you have in your family, can add up to a lot of bucks.  But if you can think of fun gifts that your kids can make for friends, suddenly gift-giving gets a lot more affordable– and a lot more personal. Here are a few gift projects that might spark a kid’s creativity and help solve the dilemma of gift-giving on a budget at your house.

 

paper clip earrings1.  These paper clip earrings would be quick and fun to make, and could be done in any color, depending on the preferences of the gift recipient.

 

Decorating Mugs

2. These coffee mugs decorated with sharpies would also be cute.  Just make sure you follow the directions on the site and be aware that you’ll need to buy the right kind of sharpie.  Not all sharpies are created equal.

 

teacupcandles3. Fill a thrifted teacup with melted candle wax and add wicks (purchased at the craft store or on amazon) and you have a sweet delicate gift for a teen girl or maybe even a grandma.

 

paracord beaded bracelets

4. These paracord bracelets are completely awesome looking.  I wasn’t able to find an exact tutorial, but my son who has made quite a few paracord bracelets says it isn’t a complicated design.

 

 

licorice jar
5. What kid wouldn’t like to get a jar of his or her favorite treats?  If licorice isn’t a favorite, suggest mini Hershey bars, nuts or even beef jerky. (Tho that last option might put you back into the $10 range, depending on the size of the jar.)

 

Duct tape wallets

6.  Duct tape wallets have been a popular project at our house for years.  Here’s an easy tutorial.

 

iPhone wallet

Make Your Own IPhone Wallet

7.  A teen who knows how to sew and is game for a more challenging project might enjoy zipping out one of these I-Phone wallets.  You might even want to make one for yourself!

 

washers

8. For a fun and colorful necklace, just use nail polish to decorate a washer in bright colors.

 

Be sure to visit the bloggers linked above  to see the details of each of these great ideas!  And happy crafting!!

Bathroom reveal, finally

Looking into the old bathroom

Looking into the old bathroom

There was once an upstairs bathroom with a crowded floor plan and a shower that had been needing to go to the dump for at least a year or five. But since it was neither the guest bath or the master bath, the project got delayed and delayed. But then this summer we finally decided to do something about it.

Looking toward the shower and toilet in the old bathroom

Looking toward the shower and toilet in the old bathroom

Here are a few shots of the old bathroom.  As you can see, there’s almost no space in front of the bathroom sink.  But still it functioned pretty well until the wall panels around the shower stall began to leak. Our plumber told us that this type of shower always fails eventually. It it worked well for us for almost 15 years. But we still felt disappointed over the lack of durability and knew we didn’t want that type of shower again.

We decided that along with replacing the shower, we’d also like to bump the sink wall out just a little to gain a better layout.  We ended up adding a tiny sliver of space– 20 inches by 6 feet, which made the new space a total of 6×8 feet.

Still not palatial, but that was enough space to fit a full size tub instead of just a corner shower.  It also allowed us to give the sink a quarter turn and set it against the back wall of the bathroom. Here’s the sketch of the old floor plan next to the new one.  You should be able to click on all photos to enlarge them.

bathroom remodel

The plan

 

Building the new wall

Building the new wall

Once we had our plan together, finally one day in July of this year we began work. Since we had the goal of keeping the bathroom functional (with intact walls) as long as possible, the first step was to build the new wall to gain that precious 20 inches. Here’s John in the teeny new space, pounding away. Once that wall was up, it was time to demo the old wall.  Though we’d imagined leaving all the fixtures in as long as possible, pretty quickly we realized we’d just have to go ahead and remove the old sink along with the old shower.  We were able to leave the toilet in place for another week or so while we worked so at least that part of the bathroom would still be useable for a little longer.

Since both plumbing and electrical had to be moved, we ended up needing both a plumber (around $750) and an electrician (around $250).  Both guys ended up being available the very same week, so by the end of July, we had a new light fixture and a new tub/shower going in.

New lightsFor lighting, instead of a simple light bar above the sink, we ended up installing a ceiling fixture on the angled ceiling that had 4 directional pivoting lights, that allowed us to really direct the light nicely all over the room.  The new bathroom feels much brighter than the old one.

New tub in a nearly gutted bathroom

New tub in a nearly gutted bathroom

As for the tub, at first we were planning to go with a one piece unit.  But the plumber checked out our stairs and told us there was no way that would fit up our stairs.  So we settled for a really nice Sterling tub and 3 piece surround that the plumber recommended highly.  It is a nice big unit with a deep tub, and set onto a Quickcrete base feels very sturdy.

Plumbing holes drilled in the old cabinet

Plumbing holes drilled in the old cabinet

To save a little cash, we used our old sink, faucet and vanity cabinet, which I stained dark brown just as I did in the other bathrooms in our house.  Cleaned up and with new knobs added, it hardly looks like the same fixture.  I used a jigsaw to cut the holes in the cabinet to fit the plumbing, which needed to come up from the floor instead of through the wall as is more typical in a bathroom.

 

 

 

Cabinet and new flooring

Cabinet and new flooring

Here’s a shot of the cabinet installed, as well as the new flooring, which ended up being  one of my favorite parts of the bathroom. About that flooring:  I really wanted wood but John thought that would be a disaster in a bathroom.  Maybe vinyl plank flooring?  Again, John’s concern was water damage. So I started looking at the various sheet vinyl options that were made to look like wood. When I read all the good reviews about this flooring Lowe’s StainMaster Huntington Coffee Wood, I was pretty sure I’d found what I wanted.

My lovely new flooring.  And tub.  And toilet.

My lovely new flooring. And tub. And toilet.

When we got to Lowe’s, the lady who was going to cut it for us remembered she had a remnant already cut.  The remnant was double the size we needed, but she marked it down to cost no more than a custom-cut piece would be, which means we got enough for two bathrooms for the grand price of $90.  We cut off what we needed and rolled it up to be used when one of our other bathrooms needs a new floor.  Love this stuff. Here’s another shot of it after we got the new tub installed.

Then it was time for sheetrock and more sheetrock.  We tossed around a lot of interesting-looking finishes, but ended up doing one that my husband had experience with and felt confident doing.  It is a knock-down finish, like is commonly seen on ceilings, so it has a more interesting texture than a typical wall.  But it should still be fairly easy to keep clean and not too rough when bumped against.

Here you can see the wall after it was textured and painted, as well as the cool baseboards that John made from cheapo pine firring that he stained dark and then gouged out to look wavy like the walnut trim that he installed elsewhere in the room.

Trim and wall detail

And then here are the rest of the bathroom photos after the work was done, showing the various details and angles of the room.  I especially love the way the towel shelf turned out.  Also I like the towel hooks on the wall so that the boys can easily hang their towels up after using them.  All in all, I’m thrilled with the way it turned out.  It is a huge upgrade, and such a pleasant place now.  Yay to my amazing hubby for doing such a good job!

Looking into the new tub

Looking into the new tub

Toward the sink from the doorway

Toward the sink from the doorway

Another favorite bit:  the towel cubby

Another favorite bit: the towel cubby

Toward the tub and toilet

Toward the tub and toilet

The towel hook-rack has a 'live' edge

The towel hook-rack has a ‘live’ edge

Toward the sink

Toward the sink

The cute towel cubby

The cute towel cubby

Faux plaster or stone finishes for sheetrock

faux plaster or stone finishes for sheetrockJohn has been busy sheet-rocking in the boys bathroom, which is really exciting, because that means paint is coming soon.  One of the ideas we’re tossing around is doing a decorative finish on the wall with kind of a plaster-look finish.  This morning I found several different tutorials for adding a bit more texture to a wall using sheetrock mud  (aka joint compound).

Here’s one way to do it that involves adding a tube of caulk and some bonding primer to your joint compound, which actually makes good sense to me, since it sounds like it would really help the textured layer adhere to the wall.  However–no pictures here.  I’d really like to see some ideas for actually making the patterns on the wall.


Here’s a tutorial that uses Ardex, something I’ve never heard of.  Turns out it is also used for giving formica countertops a facelift that looks a lot like concrete.  I like that this tutorial has pictures.  You can see the pattern is really random, and it looks pretty simple to do.

stone stencilThis tutorial from Home Depot has some close photos of how to pattern it– we’d just do step 1 and 2 I think, since we’re not really planning on adding a glaze to the wall.  I think it also might be a good idea to add caulk and bonding primer to the joint compound like the first tutorial.  Maybe also add some tint to the joint compound?  Not sure.

Finally, I happened across this fabulous raised plaster stencil  that allows you to do a faux stone finish on a wall.  I am guessing this is pretty labor intensive, but I’d love to try it, perhaps on just one wall in the bathroom? Here’s the etsy shop where you can buy this cool looking stencil.

Have any of you done textured finishes on sheetrock?  I’d love to hear your experiences.